Books: By Love Possessed

THE NICE AND THE GOOD by Iris Murdoch. 378 pages. Viking. $5.75.

It is a compliment to the mischievous skill of Iris Murdoch that her ten previous novels—notably Under the Net, The Unicorn and The Red and the Green—have kept critics guessing about the direction in which her talent might develop. The Nice and the Good may give them a sad clue, for the answer seems to be middle-age spread.

Her subject is still love, the variety of its comic faces and the delusions and dark necessities upon which it feeds. But now the...